29 passengers still missing from cruise ship

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The head of the U.N. agency on maritime safety said lessons must be learned from the Concordia disaster 100 years after the Titanic rammed into an iceberg, leading to the first international convention on sea safety.

“We should seriously consider the lessons to be learned and, if necessary, re-examine the regulations on the safety of large passenger ships in the light of the findings of the casualty investigation,” said Koji Sekimizu, secretary-general of the International Maritime Organization.

Miami-based Carnival Corp., which owns Costa, estimated that preliminary losses from having the Concordia out of operation for at least through 2012 would be between $85 million and $95 million, though it said there would be other costs as well. The company’s share price slumped more than 16 percent Monday.

Two of the missing are Americans, identified by their family as Jerry Heil, 69, and his wife Barbara, 70, from White Bear Lake, Minnesota.

Costa Crociere chairman and CEO Pier Luigi Foschi said the company would provide Schettino with legal assistance, but he disassociated Costa from his behavior, saying it broke all rules and regulations.

Capt. Schettino took an initiative of his own will which is contrary to our written rules of conduct,” Foschi said in his first public comments since the grounding.

At a news conference in Genoa, the company’s home base, Foschi said that Costa ships have their routes programmed, and alarms go off when they deviate. Those alarms are disabled if the ship’s course is manually altered, he said.

“This route was put in correctly upon departure from Civitavecchia,” Foschi said, referring to the port outside Rome. “The fact that it left from this course is due solely to a maneuver by the commander that was unapproved, unauthorized and unknown to Costa.”

Foschi said only once before had the company approved a “fly by” of this sort off Giglio — last year on the night of Aug. 9-10. In that case, the port and company had approved it.

Residents, however, said such displays have occurred several times in the past, though always in the summer when the island is full of tourists.

Foschi didn’t respond directly to prosecutors’ and passengers’ accusations that Schettino abandoned ship before all passengers had been evacuated, but he suggested his conduct wasn’t as bad in the hours of the evacuation as has been portrayed. He didn’t elaborate.

The Italian coast guard says Schettino defied their entreaties for him to return to his ship as the chaotic evacuation of the 4,200 people aboard was in full progress. After the ship’s tilt put many life rafts out of service, helicopters had to pluck to safety dozens of people remaining aboard, hours after Schettino was seen leaving the vessel.

The captain has insisted in an interview before his jailing that he stayed with the vessel to the end.

Foschi defended the conduct of the crew, while acknowledging that passengers had described a chaotic evacuation where crew members consistently downplayed the seriousness of the situation as the ship lurched to the side.

“All our crew members behaved like heroes. All of them,” he said.

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